West girls retain crown

LETITIA LUCH TOPS THE FIELD: Sophomore leads Eagles to their second straight conference title.

Anchorage Daily News 

The pecking order of West High's top two girls runners has swung back and forth like a pendulum throughout the cross country season.



Letitia Luch of West, center, follows teammate Shoshana Keegan up an early hill before claiming the individual title at the Cook Inlet Conference cross country championships Friday September 21, 2007 at Bartlett. Keegan






Sophomore Letitia Luch beat senior teammate Shoshana Keegan in a season-opening meet. Keegan reversed that finish order a week later at the Bartlett Relays. And so it went, race after race -- Luch back in front, then Keegan countering, then Luch pushing ahead again, then Keegan.

And that meant Friday afternoon marked Luch's turn to triumph.

Pulling away from Keegan and two other contenders midway through five kilometers (3.1 miles) on the Bartlett High trails, Luch captured the Cook Inlet Conference championship and spearheaded West's team domination.

The Eagles repeated as conference champs -- the back-to-back titles are the first in West's cross-country history -- on the strength of Luch's win and the fourth-place finish of two-time CIC champ Keegan. West's five scoring runners finished in the top nine -- sophomore Danielle Gerik finished seventh, freshman Annie Liotta was eighth and sophomore Marcelyn Luch took ninth -- to give the Eagles 24 points.

South finished second with 72 points, Chugiak was third (73) and Service, behind Esther Kennedy's third-place finish, earned fourth (87). The top four teams and top 15 individuals qualified for next weekend's state meet at Palmer High.

A repeat of the friendly tug-of-war between Luch and Keegan did not surprise West coach Joe Alward. He's repeatedly seen the same scene play out -- in meets and practices.

All season, they've yo-yoed,'' Alward said. And when one's on, the other is off by just a little bit.''

Friday, Keegan said she quickly sensed her teammate was going to be tough to turn back. Two kilometers into the race run under clear skies, Keegan and Luch ran side-by-side on wide trails that were covered by a thin layer of mud and lined with spruce trees, birch trees sporting fall colors, and cheering spectators.

I knew Letitia was going to have a good day,'' Keegan said. I usually get a little lead at the start, but she was right on my butt.''

Just a few seconds behind the West duo, runner-up Jaime Bronga of East and Kennedy of Service ran side-by-side.

In the second half of the race, Luch pulled away and lengthened her lead enough that she was never threatened.

I get nervous when people are right behind me,'' Luch said. I went ahead of Shoshana. I thought she'd keep up, but she didn't.''

Luch felt frisky. Keegan felt fair.

I didn't feel super good, but I didn't feel super bad,'' Keegan said.

While the face-painted Luch ran alone -- a black 'W' on her right cheek, an orange 'W' on her left cheek -- Bronga, Kennedy and Keegan battled for second place.

Bronga asserted herself in the last 500 meters to pull clear of Kennedy and Keegan.

I was running scared,'' Bronga said. They were definitely coming on, and I had to kick to hold them off.''

Holding off the West girls in the team competition proved impossible. Besides the efforts of Luch and Keegan, Gerik came up big by placing third among Eagles for the first time this season. And all seven of West's runners finished in the top 19, which thrilled Luch.

It's really exciting,'' she said. It's fun. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves.''

The Eagles' dominance wasn't restricted to the varsity level. West romped to team victory in the junior varsity race, with its five scoring runners in the top 12. The Eagles likewise won the open race with its five scoring runners in the top 12.

We have amazing runners at all those levels,'' Keegan said.

As much as Alward enjoys that remarkable depth of talent, he said his team's depth of character is especially revealing.

It's not like (success) goes to their heads,'' Alward said. They like to see the success of others on their team.

There's synergy there. They feed off each other, and thrive off it.''

Find Doyle Woody's blog online at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

2007 Cook Inlet Conference Cross-Country Championships

Friday at Bartlett High

Girls Team Results

1) West 29 points; 2) South 72; 3) Chugiak 73; 4) Service 87; 5) East 133; 6) Bartlett 180; 7) Dimond 182; 8) Eagle River 207.

Individual Results, 5 kilometers (3.1 miles)

1) Letitia Luch, W, 19:03; 2) Jaime Bronga, E, 19:16; 3) Esther Kennedy, Se, 19:24; 4) Shoshana Keegan, W, 19:26; 5) Heather Lee, So, 19:46; 6) Jennifer Renteria, C, 19:47; 7) Danielle Gerik, W, 19:48; 8) Annie Liotta, W, 19:56; 9) Marcelyn Luch, W, 19:59; 10) Jordan Dineen, So, 20:00; 11) Kristen King, ER, 20:02; 12) Anna Dalton, W, 20:24; 13) Kayla Cunningham, C, 20:25; 14) Hilary Hitz, So, 20:26; 15) Emma Kroloff, Se, 20:30; 16) Alyson McPhetres, C, 20:31; 17) Roskia Nees, Se, 20:34; 18) Kryston McPhetres, C, 20:34; 19) Ariel Roelle, W, 20:34; 20) Katherine Lange, C, 20:35; 21) Kate Backstrum, So, 20:36; 22) Jessica Yeaton, So, 20:39; 23) Jackie Herrera, B, 20:51; 24) Guerin Platte, E, 20:52; 25) Mychaela Bailey, Se, 20:54;

26) Anna Filippova, D, 20:55; 27) Sarah Allen, Se, 20:56; 28) Lauren Wilson, D, 20:58; 29) Kinsey Loan, C, 21:01; 30) Christina Knapp, E, 21:14; 31) Stephanie Wettin, So, 21:17; 32) Madison Holloran, Se, 21:18; 33) Mariah Graham, E, 21:19; 34) Amanda Seal, C, 21:24; 35) Lisa Echols, B, 21:25; 36) Laura Crews, So, 21:28; 37) Sam Rink, ER, 21:30; 38) Krystal Muller-Stubb, Se, 21:35; 39) Katie Borgert, B, 21:40; 40) Susan Bick, B, 21:41; 41) Robin Stramp, D, 21:56; 42) Jenna Drake, D, 22:00; 43) Brittany Efird, B, 22:02; 44) Paige Green, E, 22:36; 45) Brittany Hippe, D, 22:46; 46) Brianna Traxinger, E, 22:57; 47) Melanie Keddington, E, 23:01; 48) Ariel Hippe, D, 23:05; 49) Rachel Echols, B, 23:10; 50) Shannon Lamb, B, 23:57;

51) Vicky DeRoy, D, 24:09; 52) Rachel Fogg, ER, 25:07; 53) Tae Freeman, ER, 25:41; 54) Jenny Klecka, ER, 26:10.